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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

YMCA Rocks!

The downtown YMCA has been relocated to just blocks from the Trinity campus, taking up quarters in the old Albertson's grocery store at St. Mary's and highway 281. This is huge for Trinity, coming at a time when campus officials were working on developing fitness sessions for students: non-credit aerobics, Pilate's, and yoga. Problem was finding gym space (because of athletic team practices) as well as scheduling and paying instructors.
Enter the new YMCA, which opened in June, 2009. While our own Bell Center boasts outstanding fitness equipment, basketball and racquetball courts, and an indoor pool, the YMCA offers an array of classes (spinning, boot camp, weight lifting), a rock-climbing wall, an eatery called the Grace Cafe, which features "Seattle's Best" coffee, and some new state-of-the-art equipment - all within walking distance of campus.

Employees will be happy to see that there are numerous options for children including day care-type facilities. The venture is part of a partnership with the Trinity Baptist Church (no relation to the University), which runs the Cafe and features other meeting spaces.
What the pictures can't reveal is that the place has a great vibe to it: clean, new, active, friendly, and welcoming. It provides a terrific option for the fitness -minded on campus and will allow great opportunities for future partnerships.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Policies Tweaked for 2009-2010

In case you missed it, there were a couple noteworthy policy changes put into place for the upcoming academic year. These changes were detailed in the most recent Student Conduct Report that was distributed to the University community last month.

Alcohol Policy: Probably the biggest change is that the Alcohol Coalition decided to define hard alcohol once and for all. The general rule of thumb is that if you can buy it at HEB you can probably have it in your room, assuming you are 21 or older. Another change allows a "legal" suitemate to consume his or her alcoholic beverage in the room of suitemates who are under 21. This seems equally benign and risky, though I am not sure why. Nevertheless, a case couldn't really be made against it, so it is worth a try. It is being done to allow students more flexibility and to allow them more freedom in the area in which they live. Click here to see how our policies compare to some peer institutions.

Balcony Policy: In a nod to the environment, Residential Life will allow drying racks on private balconies next year. This may reduce heavy drawing electrical use of laundry room dryers. The policy also will allow students to have a milk crate on their balconies with their smelly stuff, such as running shoes. With freedom comes responsibility, though. Violators will no longer be warned and automatic fines will be issued for violations of the policy.


Directors and Assistant Directors from Student Affairs take a day to celebrate the joys of work by just plain playing. (The "fun" day followed the VP-Directors retreat the previous day in which the mind-numbing topics of budgets, strategic planning, annual reports, and student-development theory took center stage.) So fun was in order as the group, along with their second-in-commands, went zip-lining at the Cypress Valley Canopy Tours just southeast of Austin. Above, staff members from the VP office, Chapel, Career Services, and Counseling Services celebrate being tied together by their pelvic harnesses.

The REAL Dean's List

Trinity University will soon be publishing a list of students who achieved "Dean's List" status this past semester. To make the Dean's List (an old reference to academic Dean's, not the good ones) a student must have a minimum 3.65 grade point average of least 15 grade-point-carrying credits. An Academic Affairs review revealed that 413 students received this distinction for the spring of 2009. This is the highest number over the past six years, in which an average of about 340 students have received the honor. What's more, the 2008-2009 Dean's List totals came in at 799 for the two semesters combined. That is 120 more students than the previous year.

So what's gotten into our students? One could assume that the faculty is a constant, and certainly wouldn't have changed enough in one year to merit the upward trend. Perhaps it is that incoming students are coming in with more academic preparation as evidenced by climbing SAT scores. Maybe it is the Obama effect. In any event, a 3.65 at Trinity is something for these students to be very proud of accomplishing. Hats off to them, their professors, and the Admissions staff.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gray Anatomy

There really is no exact science to setting a policy. Recently this was demonstrated when administrators from ITS (Joe Hatch and Judi Reiffert), Library Director/Copyright Czar, Diane Graves, and Dean of Policy (me) met to discuss changes in handling the copyright policy. There is some risk in writing about the anatomy of a policy, as usually no one cares about rules until they break them. Note: Days ago I distributed the annual policy report to the University community and one could hear the crickets chirping, it was so quiet. (There were at least a couple of responses to set my heart aflutter. Of course they were things like: "When can I move back in August?" and "Do you know when the bills are being sent?" Things are bad when the best response you receive is from Will Thornton: "What defines a 'small' milk crate?" - related to the balcony policy.)

But here goes. With the IRAA backing off of lawsuits against students, Universities are still not in the clear. Now I don't have a great deal of sympathy for the IRAA. These Hollywood types are mostly Laker fans. I know. Nevertheless, the University has a legal and ethical responsibility to guard against use of the campus network for violations of law. Plus, some of the downloaded material is corrupt and can infect the rest of us.

The rule is that file sharing and illegal downloading are prohibited. How can the University best enforce this? To the credit of Diane Graves, she expressed willingness to meet individually with all students who receive "take down" notices from the RIAA (the notices go straight to her). This is pretty gracious. She says many people simply make mistakes or don't know the law. The University does not have the interest or resources to stalk student and employee computer use to check up on violators. (Though a raucous discussion about professors - at other schools - using school computers to watch porn, did ensue.) Good student conduct is educational and incremental. A student who receives a second take down notice will have to pay a $20 fee to have his or her computer checked to ensure illegal materials are removed and will have to pay $35 for an on-line course called "Cyber Citizenship 100." Yes, there is such a course. Failure to complete these sanctions or subsequent violations result in referral to the Conduct Board.

Fair, measured, clear, and increasingly severe. These are factors that make for good policy. Please share.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Off the Market: Steiger to Wed

Coordinator for Disability Services, Gavin Steiger recently announced his engagement to his girlfriend Lora Yanta. Steiger made the announcement by stating, quite formally and casually at once: "I have an announcement. I am engaged." I'm not clairvoyant, but had recently predicted the pending nuptials, though may not have actually verbalized it. The pair has targeted May for the wedding. Ms. Yanta is a kindergarten teacher with NISD. Mr. Steiger is set to begin his third year at Trinity, where he assists students seeking accommodations for disabilities. At left, they are pictured at the 2008 Student Affairs Winter Jubilee.

Hot Stuff in Residential Life

Trinity President John Brazil awards Residential Life Senior Secretary Lisa Chapa the Helen Heare McKinley Classified Employee Award for June, 2009. Tucked in the President's left hand is an accompanying check! Lisa Chapa started working in Res Life as a temporary gig in 2001.("Classified" staff members are hourly employees.) This award was set-up by its namesake to be awarded quarterly to those who work tirelessly though often without recognitions. Lisa was lured to campus by Wanda Olson on her day off to do work on the departmental budget for the VP. Lisa came to campus, because of her loyalty, only to be surprised by colleagues, family, and camera flashes.

Below, Assistant Director for Residential Education, Katie Storey, is bear-hugged by a proud Felicia Lee, VP for Student Affairs, after receiving the Pete Neville Award, given annually by the Student Affairs director/VP staff to an exemplary staff member. The award was presented at the annual Student Affairs after-glow luncheon following the academic year in late May (see slide show at the bottom of the blog). The event was held at LaFonda on Main. Historical note: There used to be a LaFonda near the airport, but it is now the Adult Megaplex.

Miller, we see right through you

It is only early June and Miller Hall has been essentially gutted (above). The hall was vacated on May 13. Third floor already has south facing walls, while second floor (below) is close. More pictures as a slide show will be shared later this summer. Click here to read a previous post with renovation details.